In N’oth Cay-lahna, Saahhnce is Agin’ the Law
August 3, 2012
RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina lawmakers have temporarily banned using a science panel’s recommendation to plan for rising sea levels, after the governor decided Thursday not to veto the measure.
The measure has been lampooned by comedians and has drawn the ire of environmentalists. It blocks the state from adopting any rate of sea level change for regulatory purposes until 2016, while authorizing more studies.
Gov. Beverly Perdue’s decision means the bill becomes law, bringing temporary closure to the debate that began when the science panel warned sea levels could rise by more than 3 feet by 2100 and threaten coastal areas. Coastal development group NC-20 rejected those findings and said the seas would rise only 8 inches.
According to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), sea level rise along the portion of the East Coast between North Carolina and Massachusetts is accelerating at three to four times the global rate. A USGS report published in the journal Nature Climate Change in June predicted that sea level along the coast of that region, which it called a “hotspot,” would rise up to 11.4 inches higher than the global average rise by the end of the 21st century.
The historical political clout wielded by North Carolina’s developers has led some critics of the law to accuse legislators backing it to promote those who line the pockets of their campaigns.
The largest industry contributors to McElraft’s campaigns have been real estate agents and developers, according to the National Institute on Money in State Politics. Her top contributor since she was elected to the General Assembly in 2007 has been the North Carolina Association of Realtors, followed by the North Carolina Home Builders’ Association.
McElraft, who is a former real estate agent and lives on Barrier Island off the coast, denied that campaign contributions ever influence her decisions as a lawmaker, and said her votes have not always favored increased development.
NC-20 chairman Tom Thompson said he was pleased with Perdue’s decision not to veto the bill.
“What is the rush to judgment?” Thompson asked. “This has huge economic consequences. … There is absolutely no harm in waiting four years and looking at more science before we dive in and do something.”